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Chase S. Osborn collection

 Collection — Box: Box 1
Identifier: osbocs0

Scope and Contents

Books written by Chase Osborn and his wife, Stellanova B. Osborn.


  • 1922 - 1949


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

No use restrictions.

Biographical Information

Chase S. Osborn, newspaperman, naturalist, scientist, author, political reformer, and governor was born in a log cabin in Huntington County, Indiana on January 22, 1860. His family experienced poverty that affected Osborn's childhood, and one of Osborn's early jobs was working for the Lafayette newspaper, the Daily Courier. Despite frequent and extended absences during his schooling as a youth, Osborn graduated from high school and entered Purdue University in 1874 at the age of fourteen. He was a member of the University’s first class of students. Osborn spent three years at Purdue but left at the age of seventeen.

He left Lafayette at the age of eighteen after being arrested for starting a fight during a church service. He travelled to Chicago and drifted between various odd jobs and employment with different newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, a Milwaukee paper called the Evening Signal (later called the Milwakee Evening Chronicle), and the Evening Wisconsin, also of Milwaukee. Osborn then moved to Florence, Wisconsin to edit the local newspaper, which he acquired through a loan from the owner. Osborn also began to prospect for ore while living in Florence. In 1887, Osborn sold the Florence newpaper for $10,000 and moved to Sault St. Marie, Michigan where he had purchased the Sault News with several partners.

His political career began in 1890 when he was appointed local postmaster, and he later became state game and fish warden under Governor John T. Rich. In 1896 he made an unsuccessful run for Congress. In 1898 Osborn was appointed state railroad commissioner by Governor Hazen Pingree. In this position he successfully advocated for regulatory legislation in both railroads and medicine. He left office in 1903 and he and his wife toured the various places throughout the world where iron ore was mined on commercial quantities. By this time, he had sold his newspaper in Sault St. Marie and with a partner purchased the Saginaw, Michigan Courier Herald. By the turn of the century he was spending his summers exploring for iron ore deposits in the United States and Canada. His iron ore discoveries, timber interests, and newspaper had given him a small fortune.

Returning to politics in 1908, Osborn served as the chairman of the Michigan delegation to the Republican National Convention. That same year, Osborn was a delegate to the National Conservation Congress, which was created by President Theodore Roosevelt to discuss the conservation of the nation's natural resources. Osborn was also appointed a regent of the University of Michigan.

In 1911, he was elected the twenty-seventh governor of Michigan and served for one term until 1912. Issues Osborn tackled while in the governor’s office included workers’ compensation, taxation reform, the regulation of various businesses, labor laws to protect both women and children, and prohibition. When he took office, the state faced a significant budget deficit and when he left it had a surplus.

After leaving the governors office he took another world tour which included much of Africa, Siberia, and the Far East. In 1914 Osborn ran for governor and lost. In 1918, and again in 1928 he ran for the Republican senatorial nomination and was defeated on both occasions. In 1928 he was nominated as Michigan’s “favorite son” for vice-president at the Republican national Convention, but it went no further. Osborn continued to be interested in politics and strongly advocated for the League of Nations and later the United Nations.

Throughout his adult life he held a strong interest in the natural sciences and he was a prolific writer. Besides publishing articles; he wrote twelve books over a thirty-year period, beginning in 1909 with the title Andean Lands. His last book, written with his then adopted daughter, Stellanova Brunt Osborn, entitled Schoolcraft, Longfellow, Hiawatha was published in 1942.

Osborn died after a stubborn five year battle for his health. At his side was his bride of two days, Stellanova Brunt Osborn, who had been his constant companion for 23 years, first as his secretary, as his adopted daughter for 18 years, and finally his wife. The adoption was voided shortly before the marriage. This was his second marriage; his earlier marriage resulted in seven children. Osborn died in Poulan, Georgia on April 12, 1949 and is buried on Duck Island on the St. Mary’s River in Michigan.

Osborn received honorary Doctor of Laws from University of Michigan, Olivet College, and Alma College and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. In his later years he became a philanthropist donating millions of dollars, land, and art to various causes, communities, individuals, and educational institutions. Among his many gifts was 5000 acres of timberland in Northern Michigan which he gave to Purdue University.


2.00 mss._boxes

1.00 mss._boxes

Language of Materials


Chase S. Osborn collection
In Progress
Archive Staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition. Collection description first completed 2009-05-06.

Revision Statements

  • 2021-03-26: Biographical Information updated by E. Sandgren with sketch written by David Hovde

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States